Monday, July 14, 2008


One of the articles that I read recently was David Keehn's "Strong Arm of Secession: The Knights of the Golden Circle in the Crisis of 1861," found in the June 2008 issue of North and South. Familiarity with the Knights of the Golden Circle might have come from the recent movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets, in which members of the order appear in the first few moments of the flick. Keehn makes mention of meetings of the Knights in Raleigh on May 6, 1860. Since Keehn is diving into an area of the war that has received scant attention, I'll not comment on the subject of the Knights and their impact on the Tar Heel state and the secession crisis. It is not that I don't find the subject interesting, it just not something that I have studied.

However, I will comment on this: Keehn writes about Knights founder George Bickley serving as a surgeon in the 29th North Carolina in "early 1863." Keehn does not have a source for this information. I checked the roster for the 29th NCT, and found no Bickley. I also checked NPS's Soldiers and Sailors. The only George Bickley listed served as a private in Company D, 19th Louisiana Infantry.

I did some additional digging and found this passage in a book entitled Dark Lanterns: Secret Political Societies, Conspiracies, and Treason Trails in the Civil War by Frank Klement.

The author writes on page 28:
Bickley evidently served in Bragg's army for several months, for on June 10, 1863, he signed a voucher for pay from January 28 to June 9, as "surgeon, 29th N.C. Rgt." Evidently, however, he deserted and returned to the Shelbyville sector where he had been earlier living with a backwoods belle who had borne him a child. In a letter dated June 22, 1863, while he was supposedly serving as a surgeon in Bragg's army, hestated that he was "in the society of his family."

The "Records of the Adjutant General" is the source for this information.

By July 1863, Bickley is in Indiana.

Is it true that Bickley served in the 29th NCT? Don't know. But it would seem to me that he would show up on more than one pay voucher if he had served more than six months. We will need to do a little more digging.

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